Life sciences

Potential bioactivation pathways for the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP).

PMID 3871243


The metabolism of the selective nigrostriatal toxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) has been studied in rat brain mitochondrial incubation mixtures. The 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium species MPP+ has been characterized by chemical ionization mass spectral and 1H NMR analysis. Evidence also was obtained for the formation of an intermediate product which, with the aid of deuterium incorporation studies, was tentatively identified as the alpha-carbon oxidation product, the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-2,3-dihydropyridinium species MPDP+. Comparison of the diode array UV spectrum of this metabolite with that of the synthetic perchlorate salt of MPDP+ confirmed this assignment. The oxidation of MPTP to MPDP+ but not of MPDP+ to MPP+ is completely inhibited by 10(-7) M pargyline. MPDP+, on the other hand, is unstable and rapidly undergoes disproportionation to MPTP and MPP+. Based on these results, we speculate that the neurotoxicity of MPTP is mediated by its intraneuronal oxidation to MPDP+, a reaction which appears to be catalyzed by MAO. The interactions of MPDP+ and/or MPP+ with dopamine, a readily oxidizable compound present in high concentration in the nigrostriatum, to form neurotoxic species may account for the selective toxic properties of the parent drug.